The year 1938 was a dark one for the world in general, particularly for Jews. It was the year of Kristallnacht, the Hitler pogrom throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria that foretold the horrors of the coming Holocaust. In America, the gathering storm inspired grassroots efforts to help beleaguered Jews overseas.
Thus was born the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, which celebrates its 75th anniversary on Friday.
There are relatively few organizations that can boast such a long and distinguished pedigree in a city like Miami, hardly more than a century old itself. The achievement of this milestone is a tribute to the importance of its work and the dedication and spirit of its members.
The federation was founded 10 years before Israel came into being, and over the decades it has been a steadfast supporter and benefactor of the Jewish State, helping to revitalize Israeli communities and rescuing Jewish communities at risk elsewhere and resettling them in Israel.
It has sponsored countless missions to that country, including last year’s 10-day mega-mission, which took some 700 Miami-Dade Jews to Israel, offering a testament to the involvement and power of the local Jewish community.
It has also left an indelible mark here at home by its community-building efforts and philanthropic and social work, offering hope and assistance to generations of South Florida residents. It played an instrumental role in the project to modernize the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center by guaranteeing a $10.4 million construction loan that made the new center a reality.
And that is just one example of its good works throughout the community. From the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach to Jewish day schools, synagogues, senior centers, meal programs and housing and much more, many organizations in Miami-Dade County have been touched by the work of the federation and its partner agencies.
At the same time, the federation has become a leader in bolstering interfaith relations and social-action programs in both the Jewish and general communities, coming to the aid of victims of numerous disasters, from Hurricane Andrew to the earthquake in Haiti and the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma.
One particularly effective example of its outreach to the community in general is the federation’s increasingly popular Christmas Volunteer Day, when members take the place of workers who can spend that special holiday at home with their families. Last year, volunteers passed out toys at the Chapman Partnership’s downtown Miami shelter; served a lasagna, salad and brownies lunch to Ronald McDonald House guests and cooked a hot holiday meal at the Salvation Army.
It is particularly fitting that this milestone anniversary on Friday will be chaired by Judy Gilbert-Gould and Robert Gilbert, daughter and grandson of the late Stanley C. Myers, the federation’s founding president.
It is fitting, as well, that on the anniversary of Kristallnacht every November, the Holocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation sponsors a solemn commemoration of the tragic event that inspired the founding of the federation and other groups like it around the country.
That event was a tragedy of unparalleled proportions for the Jewish people and the world at large. The many good works of the federation and its endurance testify to the everlasting victory of hope and faith over the forces of evil.